Jaguars path to the draft | The case for Ed Oliver at No. 7

Could Jaguars go defensive tackle again in the first round?

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. (Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars have a glaring need for playmakers in the NFL draft. 

Could it be that they spend the No. 7 overall pick in next week’s draft on Houston interior lineman Ed Oliver? For a player who was presumptively tabbed a No. 1 overall pick after his sophomore season in 2017, Oliver could provide significant reinforcements to one of the team's strongest units. 

Oliver (6-2, 287 pounds) was a major recruit out of high school in the Class of 2016, a dynamic five-star prospect from Westfield High School who surprised folks by staying home and signing with the Cougars. 

The case for Oliver at No. 7 Jaguars is twofold. 

What version of Oliver would the team be getting, and, is it worth it to spend back-to-back first-round picks on defensive linemen?

Oliver had stellar freshman and sophomore seasons at Houston, drawing comparisons to Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Oliver had a disappointing junior season in 2018, playing in just eight games and making 29 tackles (three sacks).

He struggled with a nagging knee injury and missed four regular season games. Then there was the infamous sideline dust-up with coach Major Applewhite over Oliver’s attire. 

Oliver’s season was forgettable. Once thought of as the potential No. 1 overall pick, Oliver is still pegged to go high, but likely more in the 8- to 10-range. That presents the question, how would his skillset translate to the Jaguars? 

From a prototypical NFL defensive tackle in a base 4-3 defense (four linemen, three linebackers), Oliver is a bit undersized. His production and motor are why folks have likened him to Donald, one of the best interior players in NFL history. Could he thrive playing alongside Marcell Dareus, and, eventually, be a replacement for him? How would an Oliver-Taven Bryan interior tandem fare? 

Eli Ankou, Abry Jones and Dareus are on the inside, as well as second-year player Bryan, whom the Jaguars should keep there as opposed to the end experiment. Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Dawaune Smoot are defensive ends. 

The salary cap suggests that either Campbell or Dareus, or maybe even both, are gone in 2020. Spotrac has Dareus’ cap hit next year at a staggering $22.5 million, and Campbell’s at $17.5 million.

With Ngakoue, corner Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack all in line for lucrative contract extensions, it’s natural to think the defensive line could dump serious salary in both Campbell and Dareus.  

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